DOJ Proposes Extremely Harsh Punishments in Apple eBook Case

Lex Friedman, writing for MacWorld regarding the proposed punishment by the DOJ for the eBook price fixing trial which Apple lost last month:

The DOJ proposes that the court require that Apple terminate its existing agreements with the five major publishers—the ones with whom Apple was found guilty of colluding: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster. It further proposes that Apple be barred “for five years from entering new ebook distribution contracts which would restrain Apple from competing on price.”

Apple would also be prohibited from “again serving as a conduit of information among the conspiring publishers,” or from punishing those publishers who decline to sell their ebooks on Apple’s preferred terms. The DOJ’s proposal further suggests that Apple be “prohibited from entering into agreements with suppliers of ebooks, music, movies, television shows or other content that are likely to increase the prices at which Apple’s competitor retailers may sell that content.”

And that’s not all. The DOJ also wants to fiddle with Apple’s App Store rules. Currently, Apple disallows third-party ebook vendors like Amazon and Barnes and Noble from linking to their online bookstores from within their iOS apps. The DOJ’s proposal suggests eliminating that rule for two years, “allowing consumers who purchase and read ebooks on their iPads and iPhones easily to compare Apple’s prices with those of its competitors.”


The DOJ’s proposal asks the court to appoint an external monitor to observe Apple’s behavior, “to ensure that Apple’s internal antitrust policies are sufficient to catch anticompetitive activities before they result in harm to consumers.”

This much punishment to Apple would do nothing except further cement the huge monopoly that Amazon has on the eBook market. If Apple is truly guilty of the price fixing allegations then they certainly do deserve some form of punishment, but the penalty should ultimately be in the best interests of consumers. A punishment of this scale, which effectively locks Apple out of the eBook market for years to come, and strengthens the monopoly that Amazon has always had, and continues to have despite Apple's efforts hence forth, is ridiculous. A monopoly of any market by a single company is never, ever good for consumers, and consumers are the ones in who's favor this decision should be made.

This is, of course, only the proposed penalty by the DOJ, and whether or not each or any of these terms will be enforced remains to be seen, but that the DOJ would disregard the best interests of consumers in favor of going for blood and strengthening an already massive monopoly is not at all understandable.